Most farmers market discoveries tend to involve a new way cook those black trumpet mushrooms or choose a Crenshaw melon. But some days, you just get lucky. Or perhaps it was our discussion with a few farmers about spaders (a device that tills the soil) that got us to this gem: Trees of Antiquity nursery in Paso Robles.
If like us, you've never heard of Trees of Antiquity, you've probably unknowingly picked up a pint of their Misty Southern Highbush blueberries or had a Chojuro 1889 Asian pear salad for lunch somewhere. The organic nursery, originally known as Sonoma Antique Apple Nursery (they still sell more than 100 varieties of apple seedlings), supplies numerous farmers with seedlings for heirloom fruit trees and bushes. Lucky for us, their seedlings are also available retail, and January happens to be the beginning of the nursery's seedling shipping season.
As the new name suggests, beyond apples, you'll also find several varieties of heirloom berry bushes (gold raspberries, Hinnomaki red gooseberries from Finland, Oregon's giant Black Butte blackberries, white mulberries), grapevines, dozens of quince, pomegranates and apricots (even Blenheims!), plums, jujubes and nuts. And a tree that produces something called a “Flavor Grenade” that of course we couldn't resist clicking on (a variety of pluot that is supposedly intensely sweet yet also crunchy). In other words, there are years and years worth of backyard and kitchen table fun here.
If you've never fostered a crabapple tree in your backyard but can't resist the Kantian dinner party implications in that “Transcendent Siberian” variety, the young couple who now run the farm, Neil and Danielle Collins, offer growing tips on their website. Things like how to select a tree based on bloom dates, understanding the “chill factor” (the extended period of cold needed by trees like apples to break their winter dormancy), pollination requirements, ideal climates, planting and such. You can also get a “tree starter package” for less than $15 if you need a little extra Arctic Queen nectarine help. And don't we all.
While you're at it, why not pass along a Trees of Antiquity gift certificate? Think of it as the pay-it-forward of fruit.
More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com.